The Italian Film Festival is stopped in Madison and Milwaukee until the end of the month, which means the Marquee Cinema in Union South is showing several Italian films all week to inspire University of Wisconsin filmmakers and lovers alike.
Tuesday night brought Edoardo De Angelis’ “The Vice of Hope” to the screen. Bearing similarities to Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this dramatic thriller constructed a narrative surrounding a pregnant child trafficker.
Despite its title, the film offered little hope until the very end, and was focused more on an hour and a half of despair and misery that surrounded the life of the protagonist.
Maria, the child trafficker, sneaks pregnant prostitutes to a place where they can give birth and then sell their baby. Maria, who is almost never seen without her canine companion “Dog,” appears tough and almost emotionless until her aunt accuses her of becoming soft. It’s then revealed that Maria is pregnant herself.
The film continues with Maria’s story as she runs away from her job after letting one of the pregnant women escape from selling her child, along with describing the hardships she faces as a pregnant woman in extreme poverty. To top it off, a doctor tells Maria that if she does not abort the child, giving birth will kill her. Maria chooses to keep her pregnancy, despite her bleak future.
This was not a film for those with a soft heart. Even though it offered a glimmer of hope, it had no Disney-style ending. Death, loss and mourning repeatedly occurred throughout the film. Yet looking past the sadness of the movie, it did an impressive job of portraying the hardships many women have to face. The problems Maria encounters resonate with a modern audience, though most have not encountered anything near her situation.
I enjoyed the artistic take on the film, which reminded me of an independent film mixed with harsh, realistic messages. Maria clearly wanted to escape the life she lived, but her desire to appear thick-skinned limited her ability to pursue her dreams.
Though “The Vice of Hope” is an Italian film, the audience Tuesday watched it with English subtitles. Grazia Menechella, an associate professor of Italian studies at the University of Wisconsin, excitedly introduced the film.
The Wisconsin Union continues its Italian Film Festival lineup with “Quanto Basta” and “Una Storia Senza Nome” later this week. Additional listings for free films can be found on their website.